Virtualization vs Cloud Computing

Explore the differences & benefits of these IT systems.

Vurtualization vs cloud computing
It’s very possible that you’ll have come across the terms ‘virtualization’ and ‘cloud computing’ in relation to business IT systems. Unfortunately, it’s highly likely you’ll have found them used interchangeably or thrown in amongst other technical jargon which none but the most IT literate can decipher. We’ve put together this quick, simple guide to help you understand the terms, how they differ and which is the best choice for your business’ IT system.

What is Virtualization?

Simply put, virtualization is software which manipulates hardware and makes it possible to run lots of different operating systems, storage and applications on the same equipment or server at the same time.

Virtualization separates your physical server into several ‘virtual’ servers which are independent from the hardware, so each one can perform a different function. This means that rather than purchasing several pieces of computer equipment, you can reduce your costs, increase efficiency and flexibility by making your existing hardware multifunctional.

Virtualization is achieved by installing a Hypervisor on top of the hardware. It is virtualization that makes cloud computing possible.

Types of Virtualization


  • Network Virtualization separates a network into more manageable parts or ‘channels’ which can then be independently assigned to a specific server or device.
  • Storage Virtualization combines physical storage capacity from the devices in your network into a single device which can then be managed from a single console.
  • Server Virtualization disguises the total number of servers, processors and operating systems from the user so they don’t have to manage unnecessary resources.
  • Data Virtualization abstracts technical details of data management to provide a business with broader access to the information they need.
  • Desktop Virtualization enables the user to access their desktop remotely by keeping the data in a virtual data center rather than the physical workstation.
  • Application Virtualization takes the application away from the operating system so it can run independently, e.g. a Windows application running on iOS.

So What’s Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a service which is made possible by virtualization technology. Virtualization exists without cloud computing, but cloud computing cannot exist without the foundation of virtualization.

Cloud computing is a service (made possible by virtualization) which delivers resources, software, applications or data on demand via the internet. The cloud can provide self-service, automated management, scalability and pay-as-you-go services which, generally, virtualization does not. Cloud computing is often confused with virtualization as it uses elements of the technology to deliver its service.

Advantages of Virtualization

There are some really significant benefits to adopting virtualization for your business’ IT system over using a public cloud computing service.

When you use a cloud computing service you are paying for a share of resources which is managed and monitored by a third party and used by several other businesses. A virtualized system is similar to a cloud service but it remains private and within your control. This offers more flexibility and security.

Virtualization will also enable you to:

  • Optimise and maximise your resources by enabling you to get more out of existing servers and hardware
  • Improve the efficiency and capacity of your current system without the need to spend more money on new equipment
  • Expand your system’s potential through multiple applications and operating systems running from a single piece of hardware
  • Keep the cost of your IT system completely within your control without involving a third party cloud service provider
  • Monitor and manage the security of your own systems, processes and data.

Advantages of Cloud Computing

There are, however, many businesses which may find cloud computing a better solution.

Opting for cloud computing will provide:

  • Ongoing, expert support from a service provider including the daily management and optimisation of your system and security of your data
  • A relatively quick setup without the need for new equipment, software licenses or virus protection
  • Pay-as-you-go services with fees calculated based on your usage and no bulky upfront costs
  • Flexible scalability so you can temporarily adjust your capacity to suit your business needs and support ongoing expansion.

Which is Right for Your Business?

When deciding whether to install virtualization software or to use a cloud computing service you need to make sure you’ve examined the specific needs of your business.

A key factor in your decision should be the in-house resources you have available to install, manage and support private virtualization technology. The installation of virtualization may be challenging when attempting to integrate it with existing systems. If you’re running a small business with limited expertise in IT you may find a cloud computing service – where the provider retains responsibility for the system – a more suitable option. However, some companies have concerns over the security of data which is stored via cloud computing and may prefer to keep this under their control.

The cost of installing virtualization technology and ongoing support costs will also be a key consideration. Cloud computing services are often based on pay-as-you-go arrangements with short contracts which offer much more flexibility and scalability as a business expands.

Choosing a Provider

To ensure you’re getting the best service for the best possible price it’s crucial that you compare the services offered by multiple providers. Here are some key questions to ask to get you started:

  • What’s their track record or experience in providing the solution? Researching the company’s credentials and requesting recommendations from existing clients is highly useful when getting an accurate picture of a provider’s quality.
  • Does the provider have a plan for future innovation which could further support your business’ growth?
  • How can they adapt the system to suit changing requirements as your business evolves?
  • Are they partnered with other providers or manufacturers to supplement their service?